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On Not Training - Jess Taverna

On Not Training - Jess Taverna
October 20, 2011 - 

For my first post, here’s a little introduction to my climbing life as viewed through a contrast with my running life. Running is a second love--which means I love it, but it plays second fiddle to climbing. I mostly run half marathons, though I would love to do some fulls. Despite the fact that running falls behind climbing as a priority, when I do run, I follow a focused, clearly outlined training plan (some, namely my husband, would go so far as to suggest my running training is obsessive). For each race, I set up a detailed, pace- and distance-based training plan as a new worksheet in my three-year old Excel log. After a run, I update the spreadsheet to reflect how I actually performed, adding notes about nutrition, weather, injuries, etc. I keep track of how many miles each pair of shoes has on it, whether a particular pair of shorts caused chafing, whether I got blisters or tweaked a hamstring. And then eventually I run the race, seeing if my training paid off, assessing what seemed to work and what didn’t based on how I performed, and making adjustments for the next training cycle.


In contrast, I have never actually trained for climbing. Sure, every so often I’ll say something about how I really need to work on my endurance, how maybe I should set aside sessions for 4x4s or campus board workouts or forcing myself to address the strange problem I seem to have with my aim when making a big move to a small hold, or how I need to improve my layback crack technique. But rarely do I ever actually follow through with anything even close to the kind of training I do for running. I’m aware that other climbers do, in fact, train; I’ve read the magazine articles and blog posts about how to train, considered following one or another plan.

But I don’t. It’s not that I don’t want to improve in climbing just as much as I want to run faster. Part of the problem is familiar--like many others, I climb because I love being outside and enjoying the rock or ice. Training to climb takes time away from actually climbing! But it’s more than that. I’m a passionate all-around climber--I love desert cracks, sweeping bolted limestone faces, steep curtains of ice, long and remote lines up tall peaks. When I try to conceptualize a training program, I’m stymied by what, exactly, I want to train to do. Trying to train for all of it at once feels like trying to set personal best times in the 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and ultras all at once. The common techniques of cyclical and periodized training mean that if I wanted to peak during winter ice season, I’d have to give up the fall desert season; if I wanted to be primed for spring granite, I’d lose that time on the ice; and if I wanted to be ready to send hard at Wild Iris I’d probably need to skip out on that spring alpine trip.

So where does this leave me? Well, on those more pessimistic days that challenge my self-esteem, it leaves me feeling like I’m falling short in all areas, that I’m not climbing as hard as I want to (and potentially could) in any one discipline. But most of the time, I realize that being equally psyched to plug jams, pull through pockets, swing tools, and power through a long day in the mountains just means there’s almost always something to do, regardless of weather or location, that will fill my soul with joy and make my muscles sore. And that’s really a pretty good way to live a climbing life.


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